- Crew, J.D.V.
- Ship histories and stories, History - Between the wars
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 1981 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The author, Mr. J.D.V. Crew, was a Gunner (T) RN and this was from Quickmatch Booklet. 1944
IT WAS IN 1925 that I first met Royal Australian Naval personnel. They had come over to collect a couple of submarines and it was in the Submarine Depot Fort Blockhouse, Gosport, Hants, that the encounter occurred. Yes, encounter it was indeed since today, twenty years later, the impression created then remains ineradicably in the memory. Resemblant of March wind, they entered our Submarine Service like a lion and left it like a lamb. That they removed the customary conventional cobwebs en route I’m not denying.
We didn’t like them. We disapproved of their manners, their airs and graces. With their blab and baloney they savoured of those so world-renowned for ‘bull’. We were disappointed. We had thought they were as we were, that they were of us, that having the same kith and kin they would be akin. And they were not. We didn’t like their affluence either, and being stupidly human, we registered that as another of their faults.
No, they were not popular. They were not liked by messmates or instructors. Their popularity with the ladies only served to diminish it with us, somewhat naturally.
Indicative of what deemed their acrimonious attitude toward our way of life, are the following anecdotes.
Like any other coal-burning concern, the Submarine Depot had to be coaled at infrequent intervals. From time immemorial it was the creed that no-one was excused, and the said creed had been accepted without murmurs. For a quarter of a century it had been good enough for hundreds, no thousands, of RN personnel, yet it wasn’t good enough for a bunch of back-bush boomeranging Aussies. OH, NO! They didn’t see why they should hump coal around. They had come from the other side of the world for training in submarines, not coal heaving. Their Government was paying for this submarine education, such as it was, and since no submarines were coal-burners, or likely to be, they didn’t reckon any coal carrying constituted constructional submarine education. So, en masse they complained, and to our disgust, got away with it. They were excused coaling. Them! A crowd of interlopers excused coaling when no-one had ever been excused ever since the navy had taken over the depot from the Royal Engineers way back in the dim past. Blimey, things had come to a pretty pass when a handful of Diggers ruled the roost. Pity they didn’t live up to their names, and dig a bit of coal.
The fact that ‘Clear lower deck for payment’ produced approximately twice the number of wage collectors as ‘Clear lower deck for coaling’ produced coal carriers, was entirely beside the point. Well, we didn’t see it anyway, so it must have been.
I next encountered this crowd of revolutionaries in the flotilla based at Portland. Admittedly the Vulcan was almost as efficient a parent as a cuckoo, agreed that the mess decks were so crowded that no Board of Trade, Sanitary or RSPCA Inspector would ever have sanctioned such conditions. But, and it’s a very big but, it had done us and we didn’t ask the Aussies to upset the cart.
So, when they produced their sea lawyer, we, like the Queen, were not amused. The very impertinence of it! Them, coming over here and picking holes in our methods! Why, not one of them has been at sea long enough to know the laws even, let alone criticise them.
However, their lawyer, in complaining to the Powers That Be, understood that each man a certain number of inches at the mess table should have, and which each man had not. He further understood that hammocks should be slung and not laid on tables, stools or decks. He explained that it was difficult to sling three, or even two hammocks from one pair of hooks.
Beneficient Authority concurred that such uncongenial conditions must cease to exist. Arrangements were made forthwith to remove the grounds for the complaint. Small tables and stools seating four at most, and some only two, were made and placed in all gangways on the mess decks, thus giving every man his allowance of inches at the table. Additional hammock hooks were fitted so that all could sling.